Andalucian Adventures – Part Eleven

El Torcal – the Camel and the Screw

The Sierra del Torcal

The Sierra del Torcal is a small mountain range separating Antequera on its northern face from Malaga on the south coast. Our ‘home’ village of Villanueva sat at its feet and we could see part of the massif from Casa Celeste, our villa. For several days the mountain was covered in cloud but when that cleared away we were able to explore its strange landscape, said to be one of the finest karst landscapes in Europe.

The whole area was under the sea a hundred million years ago but when the European and North African tectonic plates bumped into one another it forced the land upwards into hills and mountains. On Torcal the geological structure of the limestone rock favoured a dissolution process. Subsequently, wind, ice and water have eroded the rocks to give the karst landscape which you see today.

You can find limestone karsts in many parts of the world, such as the limestone pavement above Buxton, Derbyshhire, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Island, the Phi Phi islands in Thailand. But on Torcal the structure is arranged in laminated strata and this has caused irregular erosion giving rise to whimsical shapes in the rocks.

There is a good access road to the visitor centre at 1200 mtrs high and from here you can take several routes which wind in and out of the outcrops and valleys. The Green route is the shortest and makes for a good introduction to the landscape. Towering rocks and green valleys dominate this route.

But for a longer immersion into this twisted world you need to take the Yellow route which is longer and more varied.

The path is well trodden and waymarked but even so there are some sections which require a bit of scrambling and even squeezing into narrow corridors between rock faces

Breathe in!

We, of course, tackled this sometimes muddy track in full hiking gear. But quite a few Spanish visitors passed us dressed in brilliant white trainers and jeans. Occasionally they did look a little jealously at our hiking boots but most of them seem to be content to get muddy and dirty. Perhaps they had a mum who would get it clean for them!

There is one rock which everyone just has to go and see and it is now classified as a National Monument. El Tornillo means a screw in Spanish and this stratified rock is said to resemble one.

El Tornillo

I have to say that it was perhaps a little underwhelming and I’m not certain I saw it much as a screw but it does show the effects of limestone weathering very well. Anything which draws people into the great outdoors is a good thing and it does command a wonderful view of the surrounding sierras.

The Screw

El Torcal is not the only rock formation to be named within the park. There is a Sphinx, a Canary, a Jar and Bottle and other such fanciful names. The Camel does look something like the creature it is named after – in certain lights anyway.

El Camillo – a Bactrian Camel

Other formations you are left to guess at.

Hare? Rabbit?
Dont know. What’s your guess?

Torcal is a natural environment and it harbours many plants and animals. Gryphon Vultures soar over the southern ridge. Bonelli’s Eagle also occurs here but I’m afraid Bonelli was keeping them all to himself each time we visited.

We did catch a fleeting glimpse of a fox but undoubtedly the best wildlife sighting was more Ibex and very much closer than we had seen in Sierra Nevada. They have obviously become attenuated to humans because, although they remained wary and at a distance where they could keep a watchful eye, they didn’t leap away the moment we clapped eyes on them. We spent quite a time with one group just watching their antics. And on another occasion a whole herd of these wild goats streamed across the road in front of us. Typical – you wait 40 years to see an Ibex and 40 come along all at once!

Under scrutiny
Iberian Ibex

We returned several times to Torcal. It was close enough for us just to pop up there for an hour before dinner, it was endlessly fascinating and the views all the way down to the southern coast were incredible.

One thought on “Andalucian Adventures – Part Eleven

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s